Michael Youssef - Surprised By Hope
If you have ever been in a situation where you looked at your circumstances that's surrounding you, and you have concluded, based on these circumstances, that there is no way out. There is no hope left. There is no possible breakthrough that appears to you, at least. I mean, you've actually lost hope in this situation. You have resigned yourself to the inevitable defeat and dark future. You surrendered to your worry and to your anxiety. And then, a little bit of time later, you discovered that all of your sense of hopelessness were baseless, when all of a sudden light comes through and lights all the dark corners in your mind and in your heart, and to your amazement the bright light shines through the darkness.
Hope emerges to replace hopelessness, and there is joy that replaces sorrow. There is peace that overcomes worry and anxiety. There is faith that defeats fear. I think if you've been there, or maybe you are there right now, only you know where you are, you will understand what I'm talking about. But there is good news this morning. Can I get a witness? Because in far, far, far greater way than your circumstances, this was the condition of those three women in Mark chapter 16, and if you have your Bibles, you can turn to it. After they watched their beloved Jesus, the Messiah, crucified on that hill, their situation was even worse, if it can be possibly worse. They found themselves on that first Easter Sunday, the first day of the week in the Jewish calendar, in a state of hopelessness and a state of resignation to that hopelessness.
These women had supported Jesus' ministry as the Messiah. They believed in him as the one to liberate Israel. These women called by God to support the Messiah, to serve the Messiah, these women had unwavering commitment to Jesus the Messiah. These women stood with Jesus, with his mother Mary, at the foot of the cross, but they also stood with his mother through thick and thin. And all of them stood there at the foot of the cross with the Apostle John and watched Jesus die. They watched their dreams die on that cross. They watched their hope was crucified on that tree. They resigned themselves to a sense of loss and hopelessness, so they came to the tomb on Sunday morning with that sense of hopelessness, with the sense of depression. They made plans. Who are these women? Well, there are three of them. There was Mary Magdalene, who was demon-possessed, and Jesus delivered and set her free.
There was the other Mary, who is the mother of James. Then there was Salome, who is the mother of two of Jesus' disciples, the sons of Zebedee. Salome, obviously, is the leader of the pack, because in the Hebrew language whoever name that is mentioned last is the leader. It's not mentioned first. Always last. So on the third day, after the Sabbath rest, when they could not do anything, they could not move, they could not do anything, they rested in obedience to God. But they made their plans, and they followed out their plans of hopeless resignation. They brought spices to the tomb. Now these spices is part of the Jewish custom of the day. They would bring spices a few days later, and they'd put them on the dead body to mitigate the odor of the decaying corpse.
Please listen to me. To their credit, these women did not cut and run like the other disciples, to their credit. To their credit, they did not go home, shut the door, got into bed, pulled the bedcover over their heads, and got depressed, to their credit. They were at least doing something to face their grief. They were doing something to deal with what they thought was hopeless situation. Let me tell you a little bit about the leader, Salome. We know about her from Matthew chapter 20. My goodness, she was the consummate soccer mom. She really was. Read it when you go home. You'll understand what I'm saying. She was the mother of two of Jesus' disciples, the two brothers of Zebedee. She's been that kind of mom who stands on the sideline of the ballpark, telling her boys that they are the best players in the whole world.
How do you know that? Well, one day, one time, she came to Jesus. Like all Jews, they believed that Jesus came as the Messiah to reign and rule here. They didn't understand that he has to die his first coming, and then he's gonna come back the second coming to reign and rule. They thought he's gonna do it all at once. All Jews thought that, including some of the disciples. So she thought Jesus' kingdom is gonna be here and now, so she came to Jesus, and she said to him, "You know, Lord Jesus, you see my boys are the best in the bunch. I know you've got 12, but these are the best boys. I know. I raised them up. My boys are terrific. My two boys will always have your back. My two boys are the kind of boys that you can rely on, the kind of men that you can trust and rely on. My two boys are the greatest leaders in your kingdom. And, by the way, Jesus, you can do yourself a favor by putting one on the right and one on the left. They're gonna preside with you. They're gonna reign and rule with you".
Like all great moms, Salome looked out for her sons, looked out for their welfare. Like all great moms, she had great hopes and dreams for her boys, a hope. But on Good Friday, as they stood on Mount Calvary, she saw, like the others, all of her dreams and hopes crucified on that tree. She saw that her ambitions for her boys died with Jesus. She became discouraged and disappointed. She was full of the sense of hopelessness. She was filled with her own plans to deal with that situation that she's in, because her plans for her boys have come to naught. So she felt her ambitions for her sons to reign and rule with Jesus were buried in the tomb with Jesus.
And so, with the two Marys, they're trying to do the best job for a bad situation. With the two Marys, she was doing what she could to cope with her loss of hope and disappointment. And if you look at verse 3 of Mark 16, they went from hopelessness almost to helplessness, and you get there's two combination of hopelessness and helplessness, and you really have a bad deal. I mean, you got it really bad when you put those together. And so, in verse 3, they began to face their biggest obstacle, and at that time their biggest obstacle is that huge, humongous boulder that's on the mouth of the tomb, and they began to ask each other, "Who is going to roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb"?
Now let me ask you this. What keeps you up at night? What causes you fear and anxiety and that dread that you have on the inside, and sometimes you can't even put your finger on it? What deep disappointment are you living with right now? These three women had a plan to deal with their hopelessness. They had a plan to face up to their shattered dreams. But as they got to the tomb, to their utter amazement, to their utter surprise, something they never dreamed about. They discover that the stone already been rolled away, the stone that was placed there to stop Jesus from rising from the dead, because he said so. And the Pharisees were afraid, so they told Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, "Put a big stone in there and put Roman soldiers," but the stone and the Roman soldiers could not keep Jesus from rising. God's plan turned out to be far superior than they could ever imagine. God's plan was far greater than theirs ever was.
God's plan was far exceedingly more wonderful than they could ever imagine. God's plan all along was to see that his Son, God the Son, body never see decay. When I was a young Christian, I used to really... it used to bother me, I must admit that, and I would read what Paul said. That "through whom and for whom the world was created," Jesus. So he's the one who is the Creator of the world. He created the universe, the God who made all of the trees hung on a tree. The God who made all the iron was nailed to a cross, but the thing that used to bother me the most is how can a God who owns the universe be buried in a borrowed tomb? And then I heard a preacher explain it. He said it didn't matter, because he wasn't gonna be there for very long. He's only gonna be there for the weekend.
Let me ask you this: did Buddha rise from the dead? Is Mohammed's tomb empty? Did Krishna walk out of the grave? How, in God's name, can they say all religions will lead to the same place? The reason Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, so that everyone anywhere on the face of the globe, anywhere in the world, would know that he is the only one who guarantees you your resurrection. That he's the only one who can save you eternally. That he's the only one who can deliver you from hell. That he's the only one who can give you forgiveness of sins, peace, and joy here and now, eternity in heaven with him forever. He's the only one who can give you hope in the midst of hopelessness. He's the only one who can conquer the greatest and the most powerful enemy, which is death. He's the only one who can deliver you and deliver me from the chains of addiction. He's the only one who could assure you and me of our own resurrection.
That's why he rose from the dead. It's a sad day when that lie from the pit of hell began to dominate Hollywood, the movies, and television, and the people, unfortunately, so many of them are churchgoers, have bought into that lie, and, unfortunately, sadly, and it grieves me. You can see that. It's gonna lead them all into hell for eternity. Separation from Christ. Separation from God for all of eternity in the dark pit that is bottomless. That is why on this Resurrection Day, God wants to remind us that there is no great stone in your life that he cannot remove. There is no tomb that threatens to bury you that he cannot empty. There is no mountain of shame and guilt that he cannot destroy. There is no pain and sorrow that he cannot replace with his comfort. There is no death that he cannot conquer.
I'm a historian by nature. I'm amazed of how 2,000 years of Christian history, and we know many lawyers and many thinkers and historians who really looked at the evidence, and they ran smack into the resurrected Jesus. But it still amazes me for 2,000 years how many people deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Just think about this. We know, for example, Pompeii and all what happened there, based on the evidence of a 17-year-old eyewitness, one young person. And here the resurrection of Jesus has been eye-witnessed by over 500 people. They saw the resurrected Jesus over and over and over again, and yet they can say, "Well, we're not really sure what happened". What happened? I can tell you what happened. The reason he rose from the dead, to give us assurance for everyone who put their faith in him, everyone who put their trust in him, that they too, you too, can be resurrected and can escape the judgment that is coming.
I can tell you on the authority of God's Word and the testimony of millions of believers around the world, the resurrected Jesus can remove whatever stone that is holding you back. He can remove the stone of doubt. He can remove the chain of addictions. He can shatter the prisons of worry and anxiety, for he alone can forgive you all of your sins: the past sins, the present sins, and the future sins. What a great God we have. What a Christ. What a Christ. Give him praise. Give him praise, amen? All of us need to realize when we come to him, he's not asking us to improve and do better and try harder. No, no, no, no, he wants you to come as you are. Just come as you are. All he wants to hear from you, that you have no power to save yourself, that you have no power to deliver yourself, that you have no power to heal yourself. That he alone can set you free, eternally save you, when you repent, when you repent.
Now let me tell you, because I know that word is always misused. Repentance is not just feeling some remorse when you really confront your own sinful nature and the things you've done and you feel bad about it. And even if you grieve over it. No, no, no, no. Repentance means God forgave me, and then make a U-turn and move around. Go the other direction, you know? I have no sense of direction. This congregation know this. I get lost very easily. Without somebody telling me to turn right or left, I get lost. My family would testify to that. But imagine I'm on a highway, and I'm driving, and I see that I missed the exit, and I keep going, "Oh, my goodness. I missed the exit. I missed the exit. Oh, how sorry I am I missed the exit. I should have gone out there, and I keep driving. Oh, what a terrible thing I did. I just did miss the exit". No, somebody would say, "Michael, turn around. Go back to your exit".
That's what repentance is all about. Get off from wherever you are. Come to him, and you will experience his warm embrace. That's what repentance is. He died to save you, rose again, to assure you that you can have eternal life with him. But someone here might ask, "Well, Michael, how can God love me so much that he can send his Son"? This is part of who he is. "That co-existed with him before all worlds, and watch, and see him die on that cross and carrying the sin and the curse of every human being. How can he love me? How can Jesus love me so much that he allows himself to go through this humiliation and leave the splendor of heaven and go through all of this? How can he love me that much"?
For Jesus, make no mistake about it, he chose to go to that cross. He said, "I have authority to lay it down. I have authority to take it up, but I give it willingly," and he did die on that cross for you and you and you and you and me. I remember at least half a dozen occasions when I had people in my office, who would say the same thing, "People I talk to about the love of Christ, 'How can God love me so much"? Well, how can you explain human love? How can you explain selfless love? How can you explain self-giving love? You can't, but here's the truth. Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the source of every unexplainable love. It was your sin and mine that took him to that cross. It was his love that kept him on that cross until he died, and it was the Father's love that raised him up on the third day.
Will you respond to him? Will you respond to him today? You never committed your life to Jesus. You never really thought about it. Maybe around Christmas and Easter you give it some thought, and then you, kind of, walk out and ho-hum and let it go. Don't do that today. Don't do that today. I've been a pastor for 42 years. I've buried young and old. Life is so uncertain. Don't put it off. You never know what might happen. Respond to him today. Jesus rose from the dead. There is no doubt about it. There is no doubt about it. The evidence is all there for any honest historian, but the question is: because he rose from the dead, therefore he demands something. He demands a verdict. You either accept him or reject him. His resurrection is his qualification to be the judge of the world. He's gonna be the judge of every human being, whoever lived on the face of the earth. That's his qualification.
The Apostle Paul was speaking in Acts, and he said, "The time of ignorance God has overlooked, but now is the time. He commands everyone, everywhere to repent, for he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world". How? By this man Jesus. "And as proof," he uses the word, "as proof, he raised him from the dead". So you can receive him as Savior, Redeemer, and friend today, or have to face him as judge later on. When you stand before the courts of heaven, which every one of us will, you'll be asked the question: did you place your whole faith in the crucified and resurrected Jesus? Did you place your whole trust in the crucified and resurrected Savior? 'Cause this is how in the murky world in which we live, and they take great concepts and great principles and muddy them to confuse people.
You see, ignoring him, ignoring him is equal in guilt to rejecting him. Pretending that God is so big and so vast and so loving, and he's not gonna let, he's not gonna judge anybody, and everybody is gonna make it in the end, that is equal in guilt to rejecting him. Why? Because that would make a mockery of the fact that he took the robe of splendor that he had since before the creation, and he came to be an embryo in a virgin's womb, and lived a homeless life. Then as perfect, sinless. The only one who's perfect and sinless died a criminal death on the cross, then he rose again with the power of his omnipotence. It makes a mockery of that. It makes a mockery of it.
Somebody described the truth of the Resurrection this way. He said, "You may nail that truth to a tree. You may wrap that truth in a grave cloth. You may bury that truth in a tomb, but that truth of the Resurrection comes screaming to life again, saying, 'Accept him now. Accept him now as your only Savior, or face him as your judge.'" Today, on this Resurrection Day, you can be surprised by hope. You can say goodbye to hopelessness and helplessness, and you can walk in the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that everyone who's been walking can testify to you. I know I've testified to you. Never once did he forsake me. Never once. Never once. His love is everlasting love.